Friday, July 30, 2010

Slumgullion # 26

Heart On The Line. Record Store Day is reporting on Facebook that Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, who were so impressive at Lilith Fair Chicago, have released a heart-shaped vinyl single with the new song “WTF” and a live recording of “Magic Man.” It’s available at select record stores. That is, if you can find a record store. Or you can order a copy at the band’s website. That’s also where fans can watch a brief video of the Wilsons expressing their love and gratitude for indie record stores for their continued support. Red Velvet Car, Heart’s all-new CD, will be released on August 31st.

Deep Fried Power Curds. Chicago power pop band The Bradburys will travel a bit north tomorrow to perform at The Taste Of Wisconsin in Kenosha. They’ll be on the Snap-On Stage from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

Just The Two Of Us. WhiteWolfSonicPrincess is doing an acoustic show featuring founding members James Moeller on guitar and vocals and Carla Hayden on vocals and shaker at The Upstairs Lounge at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue Saturday night, July 31st. Show starts at 9:00PM.

When The Rain Comes. Beatles fans, don’t forget the American English outdoor concert originally scheduled for the Fred P. Hall Amphitheatre in Palatine this past June, will take place on Tuesday, August 3rd. That is, unless it gets rained out again. Rain won’t be a factor at The Beatles Celebration at the Old Town School of Folk Music tomorrow night. It’s a benefit for the Brendan Hedges Scholarship fund.

Hot Fun In The Summertime. The Handcuffs continue their series of outdoor performances this Sunday, with a 12:30 PM gig at The Lincoln Park Arts & Music Festival, on Racine, between Fullerton and Webster. Drummer Brad Elvis also has some upcoming gigs as a member of The Romantics.

Swirling With The King. Paul Collins’ new effort, The King Of Power Pop, which will be released in August, features Collins, along with Nikki Corvette and Wally Palmar of The Romantics. Five hundred copies of a limited edition will also be released on swirled vinyl. The CD and the record, as well as a CD/record bundle, can be ordered at

Nerks On Film. “Either Way,” the catchy title track of the Nerk Twins’ 1997 CD, will be used in the independent film Inventory, which will be released soon and start making the rounds at film festivals. Taking their name from early Beatles lore, The Nerk Twins were comprised of guitarist-vocalist Jeff Murphy of Shoes, and guitarist-vocalist Herb Eimerman, who recorded solo CDs, and is now part of the international power pop trio, The Britannicas.

The 'Zine Scene. The Printers Ball, an annual celebration of indie media, will be held from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM tonight at The Ludington Building at 1104 South Wabash in downtown Chicago. There’s no admission charge for this event, which is sponsored by Poetry magazine, and offers lots of free publications. There will also performances and readings.

Burlington Northern Kept A Rollin’. Braam’s Return, a sort of homecoming gig for the family-named band at The Dark Room on August 12th, is officially back on again. Braam, which includes brothers Scott, Tom, and Mike, and non-related new drummer, Mike Mattner, had temporarily canceled due to a scheduling conflict, but everything has since been ironed out. The group is promoting its new CD, Living Room, which features the single and video, “Burlington Northern.”

Beat On The Street. Congratulations to She-Nannigan’s, the long-time singles bar on Division Street, on 40 years of being in business. I still have fond memories of hanging out there, particularly on summer nights. Until I read Dave Hoekstra’s piece in the July 29th issue of the Chicago Sun-Times, I wasn’t aware that this venue had hosted performances by The Go-Go’s, Matthew Sweet, and Cracker.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

That Was A Long Time Ago, Dearie

This is a regular feature where I present something I wrote a few years ago. It takes its name from a line in a sketch Dave Drazin once wrote for the Famous In The Future comedy group. This time, I have a review that ran in the Illinois Entertainer back in 2006. It’s for the German band Klee’s Honeysuckle CD.

Unfortunately, my prediction that this disc could bring Klee international acclaim didn’t come true, but anyone who’s a fan of Metric still might want to check these guys out.

Americans shouldn’t have much trouble relating to Klee’s latest effort, Honeysuckle, even though most of the CD is sung in German (three of the songs have English versions). The music has a classic new wave ambience and an enticing lead singer in Suzie Kerstgens. Already popular at home in Deutscheland, Klee could start an international following with this first U.S. release.

Fellow country-woman Nina Hagen of “New York New York” fame harmonizes with Kerstgens on the pulsating techno number, “We Go Against The Flow.” Other tracks with dance club potential include “Gold” and “As Long As You Live.” On cosmopolitan tunes like “With You,” Klee comes across as a Germanic version of Ivy. “This Is For Everyone" taps into New Order while “Our Movie” recalls The Cure. Klee takes a different approach with the delicate ballad, “My Room,” but like everything else on Honeysuckle, it works.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

For The Benefit Of Mr H.

Beatles photo from Official Beatles website.

Beatles fans in the Chicago area have a variety of opportunities to come together, whether it’s a monthly meeting at a coffee house in Schaumburg or at the annual Fest For Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont. Another reason for gathering is to honor a fellow fan who was taken away but left behind warm feelings and memories. Such is the case with the Beatles Celebration taking place on July 31st at The Old Town School of Folk Music. Held every other year, it’s a benefit for the Brendan Hedges Scholarship Fund. The fund provides free music lessons to aspiring musicians who don’t have the money to pay for them. Hedges was a young musician who had made a lot of friends before being murdered in 1996.

One of those friends is WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert, who first met Hedges when he was a teenager performing as part of the Battle of the Beatles Bands competition at the Fest For Beatles Fans. Hemmert’s been on vacation this week, but she’ll host the Beatles Celebration on Saturday night. She posted a touching blog on her station’s website a while back, detailing her feelings for Hedges. The blog also has a few video clips of performances from past Brendan Hedges fundraisers, like the multi-member Beatles Ensemble performing “Mother Nature’s Son” and singer-guitarist Phil Angotti performing “Paperback Writer” with singer-guitarist Jay Goeppner from the Instant Karma John Lennon Tribute band.

The Beatles Ensemble, Angotti, and Goeppner will be on hand again this year for the Beatles Celebration, along with other musical guests like Uke Nation with Lanialoha Lee; The Janes; St. Clemens Kids; Brown Lazer; and The Astronomer. Steve Dawson, who’s a member of Dolly Varden and has released solo efforts, will be playing with Guitar 4ever. Beatles parody performer Danny Donuts, a Fest For Beatles Fans regular, will also participate, as will Number Nine, Sandlewood Sitar Music Ensemble, and FlatTop. Veteran musician Eric Howell, who released his Greatest Hitch CD, and recently wrote a Chicago Blackhawks/Rolling Stones mash-up that was popular on XRT, is also on the bill.

The Beatles Celebration starts at 8:00 PM at The Old Town School of Folk Music, which is located at 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $11 for seniors and children. All of the musical guests will be playing Beatles songs, which is the perfect way to pay tribute to a guy who loved the band.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Le Garage Rock, S'il Vous Plait

Photo from The Plastiscines Facebook page.

Like a lot of people these days, I don’t have enough money to see every concert I’d like to, particularly those held overseas. The Plastiscines are a four woman garage rock band from Paris who have released two fun CDs, LP1 and About Love.

They celebrated my birthday this past Sunday with an outdoor performance at the Paleo Festival Nyon in France. Okay, The Plastiscines weren’t aware that July 25th was my birthday but I would have liked to have gone anyway. Fortunately, I was able to watch the entire hour-long show on the band’s Facebook page. So what follows is my first review of a concert I saw only on the Internet.

As with Chicago, the weather in this particular area of France on July 25th was perfect. Kicking off with “I Could Rob You,” The Plastiscines charged through one high speed song after another, with minimal interaction with the audience, other than an occasional, “Merci!” It wasn’t until lead vocalist-guitarist Katty Besnard introduced the band’s first single, “Loser,” that she really spoke to the crowd.

When I saw The Plastiscines perform at an all ages event sponsored by Nylon Magazine at The Bottom Lounge last summer, they neglected LP1 in favor of the newer tunes from About Love. This more recent show featured material from both CDs, plus a cover of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.” As with the CDs, some of the songs were sung in French, and some were in English. On a revved up cover of the Clint Ballard, Jr. penned Linda Ronstadt hit, “You’re No Good,” Besnard and guitarist Marine Neuilly traveled to opposite ends of the stage and cut loose with some extended jamming. The band also roughed up its own melodic single, “Barcelona,” with Zazie Tavitian violently attacking her drum kit.

“Shake (Twist Around The Fire)” featured a revved up Ramones style arrangement, while the punchy “Mr. Driver” borrowed from The Doors’ “Hello I Love You” (which borrowed heavily from The Kinks). On “Bitch,” Besnard ventured out into the crowd, while Neuilly was lying on her back, madly strumming her guitar. It was an appropriately wild finale to a hard-hitting concert. The Plastiscines would have been an inspired choice for Lilith Fair, especially if organizer Sarah McLachlan wanted to give her fest some additional international flavor.

Monday, July 26, 2010

On With The Show!

I was a writer/performer with the Famous In The Future comedy group for 20 years before leaving to pursue other interests about a year and a half ago. The others continue to roll along, and we remain friends. I plug their occasional shows, usually when they’re teaming up with Black Forest Theatre. In less than a month, FIF will be playing at Abbie Fest XXII at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre.

Today, I’m plugging my own comedic endeavors. My wife Pam and I have created a series called Manchester Gallery, which can be seen on Jeff Kelley’s Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show. I play Terrence, the devious and inept curator of a pop culture museum who lies about all the items he’s displaying. Kelley and I have developed a mutual admiration for each other’s comedic styles, so we decided that he would direct a sketch that I had written.

We got together this past Saturday, along with Dave Metzger, who had done so well in a previous Manchester Gallery, and Karen Yashon-Brown, a talented comic actress who had performed with Famous In The Future for over 10 years. We taped a skit called The Cancelers that I had written and performed with FIF a few years ago. We also taped an episode of Manchester Gallery, with Karen playing the museum’s Director of Public Relations; Dave reprising his role of a victimized button collector from the earlier episode; and Jeff doing a cameo.

Everything went extremely well, and it looks like we’ll be taping more sketches in the future. It was a kick performing with Karen again, and she really brought her character to life. Manchester Gallery has had a few running jokes and story lines involving Terrence getting into more and more hot water, and within the next few episodes, they’ll all be resolved. I’m not sure if there will be a season or series finale. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing and performing Manchester Gallery, and being part of the fun and eclectic Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff lineup. So I’m hesitant to abandon it. I’m hoping for inspiration for a new series.

In the meantime, check out Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff. In addition to having Manchester Gallery every other week, it has enjoyable features like On The Road With Willy, The News With Mark, Anklebone Stories, Cinema Cheese, vintage clips, and Jeff’s commentary.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Slumgullion #25

Cheap Trick artwork from the band's Facebook page.

The High Priest & The Lady. First, Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin was immortalized as Lady Robotika, and now Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander has ventured into the world of comics. He wrote and conceived High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise, which will be published by Ape Comics in the Fall. Zander made a special appearance at the Comic Con in San Diego on July 22nd, and signed copies of the graphic novel. Maybe he compared notes with Wiedlin, who was also at the event. It would be nice if they both came to Chicago for Wizard World.

Dot Dot Dot will hold a release party for its second CD at the 115 Bourbon Street club in Merrionette Park in Illinois on August 7th, at 11:00 PM. The first video from the Palatine-based band’s new effort will be for “Around The World (And Back).”

Your Villain My Hero has been chosen as the first band to be featured on Ty Bentli’s Going Viral web-based music series on KISS FM. The band, which has a steady gig on Thursdays at Durty Nellies in Palatine, played a live version of its original tune, “I Don’t Need A Boyfriend.” The video is tied into a contest for Chicago music acts, so fans should check out Your Villain My Hero online to see how they can participate.

Vicki Peterson of The Bangles has posted a thank you message on Facebook to all the fans who helped raise funds for keyboard player Harpo Hilfman’s wife, Cindi. Peterson reports that Harpo successfully donated a kidney to his wife, and both are doing well. Peterson is looking to bring in some more money by putting a dress she wore to the British Phonographic Industry Awards in 1987 up for auction on eBay. The Bangles will play a benefit concert for Cindi on July 30th in Topanga, California. Peterson is asking fans to keep their thoughts, prayers, and good vibrations coming.

The Beat Goes On. The Power Pop Overdose blog is reporting the good news that Paul Collins will release a new CD, title King Of Power on Alive Records this on August 24th.

Hey, hey, it’s Angotti. Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti and friends will be performing a tribute to The Monkees at The Viaduct Theatre on Western Avenue in Chicago on July 30th, starting at 9:30PM.

The Handcuffs will be playing at Taste of Lincoln Avenue tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM. Other acts at the two-day fest include Soul Asylum, The Freddy Jones Band, and Heavy Manners.

Doggone it, Abbie. Congratulations to my alma mater comedy group Famous In The Future for getting some long overdue props. The latest issue of Chicago Magazine has a piece on the upcoming Abbie Fest at Mary-Arrchie Theatre on August 20th - 22nd, and the writer gives a shout out to FIF founding member Frank Carr’s sketch writing abilities, and notes his comic inspiration. Turns out, Frank always wanted to be like Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Power Pop Bash Returns To L.A.

Graphic from International Pop Overthrow website.

Each Spring, power pop fans in the Chicago area begin dreaming of the joy concert promoter David Bash will bring them when International Pop Overthrow comes for its annual visit in April. The globe trotting showcase of energetic and melodic performers also visits Milwaukee, Detroit, San Diego, Vancouver, Liverpool, and other cities.The lineup is different for each location.

It all started in Los Angeles 13 years ago. I.P.O. returns to the city of its birth for a 19-day run, starting tomorrow night with eight bands at The Joynt. Over the next few weeks, Bash will stage multi-act shows at Fais Do Do, The Cat Club, Spaceland, Molly Malone’s, Fitzgerald’s, The Echo, and The Echoplex. On Saturday, August 1st, there will be an I.P.O. morning/afternoon event at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa.

Looking over the schedule, which can be found online, the only bands I’m familiar with are The Singles, who play authentic 1960s style pop on CDs like Better Than Before; sparkle*jets u.k., who have contributed imaginative and fun tracks to albums like Substitution Mass Confusion - A Tribute To The Cars,; and singer-guitarist Jeremy, who has logged some impressive I.P.O. gigs in Chicago. Still, one of the benefits of attending International Pop Overthrow is giving previously unfamiliar acts a chance to become new favorites.

For example, Maple Mars, who just released their Galaxyland CD, sound pretty promising, based on the dreamy psychedelic songs on their MySpace page. The band lists The Zombies, The Hollies, The Move, and The Kinks as major influences. Sitcom Neighbor is a clever name for a band, and song titles like “Accidental Suicide” provide further evidence that these guys, who claim ABBA and Zappa as influences, have a sense of humor. Omaha, Nebraska’s The Beat Seekers evoke vintage Elvis Costello on songs like “Dead Air Radio” and “Lipstick Crush Delight,” although their motto is “There’s no niche like no niche.”

There’s a trio of interesting acts discovered with just a bit of Internet research. Imagine how much more fun they’ll sound live. So, people of Los Angeles, get out to International Pop Overthrow and enjoy lots of exciting new bands. And tell David Bash, Chicago says hello.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #11

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.

This Mod-inspired periodical came from Los Angeles and was published in the Fall of 1983. At this point I have no recollection of how I came to possess it, but I probably bought it from one of the record stores I frequented on Chicago’s north side. To this day, they (the few that are left) carry magazines from around the world.

Twist was published by Dave Lumian and its editor was Phillip Cramer, who worked with a staff of six, plus several contributing writers and photographers. Madness is on the front cover, and there’s a three page interview with them conducted by Lumian. Note that all of the band members are wearing what my younger brother and I called Mack hats when we were kids. We called them that because we thought anybody who wore one was named Mack. The article is accompanied by some eye-popping graphics, and throughout its 40 pages, Twist exudes a fun, artsy ambience.

Writer Margy Rochlin has an interview with Franc Roddam, who directed and co-wrote the film version of The Who’s Quadrophenia. Mark Johnson’s London Calling column offers a British point of view as he compares the nascent U.S. Mod scene to the more entrenched one in England. This issue also features Jeff Spurrier’s interview with U2, and a DJ profile of Clyde Grimes from the O.N. Klub under the heading Aces At The Controls. There’s a two page photo spread about San Francisco scooter riders and another photo spread on hair and make-up. Gregory Dobbins’s License To Kill looks back at fictional spies from the James Bond films, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, and The Avengers.

The ads for vintage clothing stores, surfboards, dance parties, clubs, and hair salons are almost as interesting as the articles. In short, Twist had everything a Mod could need.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rocking In Palatine - The Film

Graphic from the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival website.

I’ve got nothing against my sleepy little home town of Palatine, Illinois but I’ve never thought of it as a hotbed of cultural activity either. Occasionally, something cool happens, like when the Durty Nellies night club hosted an Underground Garage showcase that included The Zombies, Gore Gore Girls, and The Mooney Suzuki, or when The Smithereens will play the Palatine Street Fest on August 28th. But mostly it’s sedate around here.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival being held in town this week. It kicks off with an outdoor concert by Chris Petlak at the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater on Wednesday, July 21st, and ends with an Awards Brunch at Hotel Indigo on Sunday, July 25th. In between, there will be several screenings each night at the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center. Emmett’s restaurant will be the scene of a Festival Dinner Buffet late Saturday afternoon.

The independent films are from around the world and range from Brooke Dahmen’s two-minute comedy 8 Hour Work Day to Gregory Fitzsimmons’s 85-minute drama Miss Ohio. Several of the entries look interesting. For example, there’s the Alex Karpovsky directed Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, a documentary about Second City improv masters TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Bryan Litt’s Educating Cooper is an offbeat comedy about a schoolboy coping with his mother’s death, an evil principal, and an exotic female classmate. On Saturday, Blue Whiskey will present the Illinois Premiere of The Exploding Girl, a drama about a college student whose epilepsy is affected by her emotional troubles. And there are plenty more choices.

Hopefully, there will be a good turn out for this event, but I’m not sure if many people in Palatine even know about it. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t seen Blue Whiskey’s eight-page program at the Palatine Library, although the Blue Whiskey website has links to articles by Dann Gire in The Daily Herald and Dan Pearson in the Barrington Courier-Review. As for you people coming from abroad for the film festival, try spending some cash at Durty Nellies, Emmett’s, Mint Julep Cafe, Lamplighters, and some of the other bars and restaurants in town. That just might encourage Palatine to try this sort of thing more often.

Monday, July 19, 2010

45 RPM Memories: The Records - “Teenarama”

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.

I’m currently working on a review of a CD compilation by The Undertones for the Illinois Entertainer. While listening to their frenetic but highly melodic “Teenage Kicks,” I realized that I sometimes get it confused with this record. Several years ago, I made a mixed tape where “Teenage Kicks” followed after “Teenarama,” and by now the two songs are fused together in my mind.

While “Teenage Kicks” is a celebration of youthful adventures from a teen’s point of view, “Teenarama” takes a more voyeuristic angle. “Ca-ca-ca -cola is all you ever drink,” lead vocalist-guitarist John Wicks marvels. “The way you smile, the way you wink.” This girl’s unhealthy diet is somehow tied to her appeal, because Wicks later adds, “Sugar candy is all you ever eat./You’re so skinny, you’re so sweet.”

“Teenarama” was written by Wicks and the band’s drummer, Will Birch, who gives the song its hard-hitting beat. Taken from The Records’ self-titled debut in 1979, it fits perfectly in an era that gave us The Knack’s “My Sharona” and The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” The power pop arrangement is driven by guitars, and Wicks harmonizes beautifully with guitarist Huw Gower and bassist Phil Brown, particularly on the chorus of, “Teenarama, and all of that melodrama./Gimme gimme gimme that Teenarama.”

The B-side, “Held Up High,” is a non-LP track, also written by Wicks and Birch. The soaring harmonies and Brown’s adventurous bass playing add to this appealing song’s psychedelic ambience.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Slumgullion # 24

People heading out to Lilith Fair at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre tomorrow should be aware that there have been some recent changes to the line up. The acts now slated to perform are the event’s founder, Sarah McLachlan; Mary J. Blige; Heart; Court Yard Hounds; Kate Nash; Vedera (see above); Vita Chambers; Meaghan Smith; and Our Stage Winner Katie Todd.

Braam has added a new drummer and will be performing at The Darkroom on Chicago Avenue on August 12th at 9PM. The multi-brother band has a new CD, called Living Room, which includes the single “Burlington Northern.” The video for “Burlington Northern” is still in contention for a People’s Choice Award at the World Music and Independent Film Festival. Fans can cast their votes at the festival’s website.

First there was Walking with Dinosaurs The Arena Spectacular, and now there will be time traveling with alien monsters. At least that’s what it will feel like when Doctor Who Live brings Cybermen, Weeping Angels (don’t blink!), Smilers, Vampires, Clockwork Robots, and other fiends from the long-running sci-fi show to stages in nine English cities. The promoters promise, “special FX, optical illusions, and spectacular pyrotechnics building to an epic finale.” If BBC Worldwide is planning on bringing any events like this to the States, I think I’d feel more comfortable with the various companions who have helped the Doctor.

Ralph Covert and his teenage daughter Fiona Grey will perform Dinner & Music, an acoustic show at Julius Meinl on Southport Avenue in Chicago next Thursday at 7:00PM. Covert has a variety of sources to draw from, including his work with The Bad Examples and solo projects, as well as the music he’s composed for theater productions. It’s rumored that a few Ralph’s World compositions might turn up in the set.

Congratulations to Mary-Arrchie Theatre on its successful staging of Kirk Lynn’s challenging Cherrywood. Several of the shows in the opening weeks have sold out, and the play, directed by David Cromer, has been getting favorable reviews in the local press.

Marshall Crenshaw’s current tour will bring him to the Chicago area on October 27th, when he performs a show at SPACE in Evanston. He’ll also be part of Channeling Chilton: A Night of Alex Chilton’s Music, which will be held at City Winery in New York on July 28th. Members of Big Star will also be on hand for the tribute, as well as other special guests. Some of the proceeds will benefit people affected by the Deep Horizon Oil Spill.

Power pop the post office. Cheap Trick fans can now show their allegiance to the band on every card or letter they send through the mail. Real US postal stamps sporting the unforgettable Cheap Trick logo can be purchased from Zazzle. That’s the same company where fans of the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show can purchase mugs, buttons, and other souvenirs.

Hoodoo Gurus front man Dave Faulkner was downright apologetic on a recent Facebook post while unveiling the dates for the band’s limited tour in support of its latest release, Purity Of Essence. Fans will no doubt agree there should be a lot more gigs. Here’s the schedule so far: Paris on Oct. 1; London on Oct. 3; East Coast Brooklyn Oct 5; Boston Oct 7; Philly Oct. 8 DC Oct. 9 West Coast San Diego Oct. 12 San Fran Oct 14; L.A. Oct. 15, Brazil Oct 18 -25. By the way, the new CD is great.

Phil Angotti and Carolyn Engelmann will play the “Acoustic Circus” on Saturday, July 17th at The Elbo Room Main Floor Stage 8:00PM.

Anyone who was intrigued by the CD review posted here yesterday for Solid State by The Greenwoods should check out the band tomorrow night at Martyr’s on Chicago’s north side. The band’s CD release party starts at 9PM.

Pat Benatar will be signing copies of her book, Between a Heart and a Rock Place at the Borders store at 830 N. Michigan Avenue at 12:30 PM on Sunday.

WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert is a candidate to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Fans can help her achieve this well-deserved honor by voting via a link on the station’s website.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CD Review: The Greenwoods - Solid State

Solid State may be the debut CD from The Greenwoods but its three members have several years of recording and performing experience. Brothers Dag and Gregg Juhlin formed The Slugs, an early 1980s Chicago punk band that released some fine albums and still gets together for the odd gig from time to time. Dag has also worked with Poi Dog Pondering, and drummer Jim Bashaw is a veteran of the band Mind Bomb.

Bashaw’s thundering drums kick off most of the 11 melodic tracks on Solid State, bringing to mind The Who, and the Juhlins provide plenty of firepower as well. Guitarist-vocalist and chief songwriter Dag Juhlin doesn’t spend much time exploring boy-meets-girl subject matter; his thought-provoking lyrics are more often a sort of philosophy lesson. “I came here tonight with something to prove,” he sings on the energetic opening track, “The People In Between,” while on “Be This Way,” which features Cath Carrol on backing vocals, he promises, “There’s a morning after every long night.” The first single and video, “How We Get There,” offers a positive message set to ringing guitars and three-part harmonies reminiscent of The Hollies.

The pumped up “Borderline,” which finds Dag Juhlin playing a funkier guitar style, contains some of his most bitter observations as he warns against the numerous ways people continually separate themselves from each other. The mellow arrangement on the love song “Star” evokes 1970s rock, setting it apart from the CD’s other tracks. Like all of Solid State though, it features a strong melody and the trio’s gorgeous harmonies. All in all, a solid effort from these rock and roll veterans.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Photo of James Moeller and Carla Hayden from Hayden's Facebook page.

As Pitchfork Music Festival and Lilith Fair prepare to lock horns in the Chicago area this Saturday, James Moeller and Carla Hayden of Black Forest Theatre are spreading the word about their first ever BlackforestPalooozzzaaa, which takes place on the same day. Kicking off at noon, it’s a free, DIY multi-media event spread across a few locations in Evanston.

“We have a little storefront space in Evanston and we’re trying to create a local scene by inviting in a bunch of cool acts to perform,” Moeller said of BlackforestPalooozzzaaa in a recent e-mail. “It’s a party, a scene, a happening where everyone is welcome!”

The fun includes music, comedy, and meditation, as well as a BYOB and BYOM (Bring Your Own Meat) backyard barbecue at 746 Hinman. I’m assuming it’s BYOVS (Bring Your Own Vegetarian Substitute) as well. Attendees can get a free acupuncture treatment at the nearby Acupuncture Access if they mention “BlackforestPalooozzzaaa.” Call for an appointment at 847-312-1797 or just drop by 915 Elmwood between noon and 3:00 PM.

Surprisingly, Black Forest itself won’t be offering one of its charmingly offbeat theatrical productions at the fest. But the multi-faceted Moeller and Hayden will be on stage performing a half hour set with their alternative band WhiteWolfSonicPrincess at 9:30 PM. Moeller is also a guitarist-singer with the garage rock band The Telepaths, who’ll perform at 5:00PM.

The live entertainment portion of the fest, held at Black Forest’s space at 512 Kedzie, will get underway at 4:15PM, as John Dalton sings the National Anthem. Cynthia Marchant, Cory Hance, Peter Demuth, and Joe Lapsley will be doing solo acoustic sets. Hance will also be doing some stand-up comedy. John & the Deerfield Boys, pysch-folk Hannah Frank Trio; Bad Burrito; and 1960s rock specialist Mr. Mo are also on the eclectic schedule.

Famous In The Future, a comedy group I performed with for 2000 years, will be offering a musical set at 8:40 PM. Dave Drazin, a former FIF member who has since become a highly respected silent film photoplay pianist (see Elevated Observations column), will be reuniting with the group for this set.

“We're performing four songs with Dave on piano, two newer and two older,” founding member Frank Carr explained in an e-mail. The two older tunes, “Mr. Beauvais” and “Stop That Guy,” are Drazin compositions; Carr and cast member Desiree Burcum each wrote one of the other two.

Famous In The Future and Black Forest are veterans of the annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Sins festival, which has been held at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre for over 20 years. Hopefully, BlackforestPalooozzzaaa will capture that same creative and cooperative spirit that the Abbie exudes.

“We hope to fill up the space with positive vibes and coolness,” Moeller said of the living room ambience of the Black Forest HQ. Or as the BlackforestPalooozzzaaa poster states, “Unchain your heart. Open your head. Energy is Eternal Delight!”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Midsummer Night’s (All I Have To Do Is) Dream

The Everly Hillbillies came to the suburb of Buffalo Grove tonight for an outdoor concert in a grassy field called Willow Stream Park. They didn’t have an official stage to perform on, so Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis sang and strummed their acoustic guitars with trees as a backdrop, while Don Koss added percussion. Cohen and Janulis have performed for several years together as part of the power pop band The Abbeys, while Cohen and Koss play with the power pop band The Pop Dollys.

The Everly Hillbillies offer a lot of Phil and Don material, but not much in the way of bluegrass, which makes their name a bit of a mystery. Still, that doesn’t seem to matter when Cohen and Janulis harmonize on hits like “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Bird Dog,” and “Bye Bye, Love.” The Everly Brothers wrote some of their own material, like “(‘Til) I Kissed You,” but Cohen frequently points out the numerous composers like Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Carole King, and Paul McCartney, who helped the duo achieve stardom.

The easygoing, 90-minute concert also found The Everly Hillbilies covering Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nazareth (whose “Love Hurts” was a Bryant composition), Roy Orbison, and The Beatles. There were some obscure choices as well, like a vintage blues tune by Jimmy Reed, and Electric Light Orchestra’s “Story Of Me.” Cohen and Janulis were able to tap into their Everly Brothers influences on catchy originals like “Peace With The Past” and “Alone In My Room.”

The weather, which had looked threatening earlier in the day, proved to be perfect, and by the time The Everly Hillbillies wrapped things up with a trio of Little Richard tunes, the audience had enjoyed a pleasant night of acoustic entertainment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

That Was A Long Time Ago, Dearie

A regular feature, where I present something I actually wrote several years ago. It takes its name from a line in a sketch Dave Drazin wrote for the Famous In The Future comedy group. This time out, it’s a review of the 1997 Supergrass release, In It For The Money, that was published in the Illinois Entertainer.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when a band follows a promising debut with an album that not only avoids the sophomore jinx but actually surpasses the first effort. Such is the case with Supergrass, the British trio that served up a smorgasbord of classic rock references with last year’s I Should Coco. Although In It For The Money lacks the immediate ear candy appeal of its predecessor, ultimately it’s more satisfying and mature.

Mature seems like an odd term to describe the lads of Supergrass, who gleefully mimicked The Smurfs on Coco’s “We’re Not Supposed To,” but it fits. Songs like “Sun Hits The Sky” and “You Can See Me’ sport the band’s irresistible melodies, but the arrangements show greater depth and texture. Supergrass may get caught shoplifting from Cheap Trick on “Tonight,” but they take the song in a bold new direction by adding festive horns.

“Cheapskate,” the designated first single, is a high-speed thrill ride, and the guitar assault of “Richard III” is augmented with haunting keyboards work. In It For The Money delivers on the slower material too. “Hollow Little Reign” has a theatrical flair that evokes Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, while “Late In The Day” and “It’s Not Me” are touching ballads. The funhouse atmosphere of “Sometimes I Make You Sad” acknowledges that the band still has a goofy side. Supergrass may be in it for the money, but they make things fun for the rest of us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Slumgullion #22

Godzilla art from G-Fest website.

Oh No, There Goes Tokyo: If people in the Chicago area are hearing the stomping of huge feet, it might be because of the G-Fest XVII Godzilla Convention, which is running from Friday through Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Subtitled The Return To Monster Island, the fest will feature Q & A sessions with some of the actors and crew from the big guy’s films, as well as a dealers room, and fan presentations on various topics. Admission is $25 per day or $40 for the whole weekend. Visitors are encouraged to come in Godzilla or Raymond Burr costumes.

Beatles Day Tripper: Members Of The British Beatles Fan Club, a group on Facebook, has a report on what Mike Badger, who formed the short-lived and much-missed English pop band The La’s, has been up to lately. According to writer Mark Sumner on the Internet site Click Liverpool, Badger was commissioned by the Cavern Walks shopping center in Liverpool to create a sculpture honoring The Beatles for the city’s third annual Beatles Day on July 10th. The result is an intriguing piece titled “Musical Composition” that will be comprised of Badger’s own Zenith guitar (the sort Paul McCartney often played) and other musical instruments. Music wise, Sumner reports that Badger is currently working on a solo career.

Hello Again, Goodbye Girl: Squeeze has just uploaded three songs from its upcoming CD Spot The Difference to its MySpace page. The new CD features the band playing new versions of some of its best-loved tunes, like “Goodbye Girl,” “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell),” and “Loving You Tonight.” Squeeze will be performing with Cheap Trick at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park tomorrow (July 10th) night.

Believe It Or Not: Bass player Mike Galassini of the Chicago bands The Valley Downs and 92 Degrees, will be performing with yet another combo, The Ripleys, at Navy Pier on Saturday from 5:00PM to 7:00PM in the Beer Garden. This one’s a cover band that plays songs by The Beatles, Matthew Sweet, and Cheap Trick, among others. Meanwhile, The Valley Downs have created a video for the ironically titled “Lucky Day,” a catchy, C&W flavored tune with lines like, “You leave me in the dirt, the dirt is where I’ll stay.” It’s from their latest, self-titled EP. The clip features footage from the band’s performances in Liverpool, Nashville, London, and New York, and can be seen on The Valley Downs MySpace page, and on YouTube.

Y’all Come Back Now, Little Susie: Guitarist-vocalist Mike Cohen, who was impressive with The Pop Dollys and The Abbeys at this year’s International Pop Overthrow in Chicago, has a side project called The Everly Hillbillies. As the name suggests, they cover a lot of Phil & Don material, plus some originals. The Everly Hillbillies will be performing at Willow Stream Park in Buffalo Grove this coming Tuesday, July 13th, starting at 7PM.

Ten-hut! Freewheeling rockers Genral Patton & His Privates will be performing from 6:00PM to 7:00PM tomorrow night at the Gallery Cabaret, as part of the Gallery Block Party celebration of food and music. Admission is free.

Rockin’ In Palatine: The American English concert, which would have kicked off the suburb’s outdoor concert series this past June had it not been rained out, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, August 3rd, at 8:00PM. American English covers the entire career of The Beatles, from the early days to the Let It Be era.

Would You Like Some Handcuffs With Those Fries? Indie rock band The Handcuffs will be performing at the Roscoe Village Burger Fest 2010 in Chicago at the Damen and Belmont Stage from 6PM to 7PM tomorrow night. The Handcuffs have been slaving away on their third CD. Also performing at Burger Fest 2010 will be 10,000 Maniacs, Liquid Soul, Dot Dot Dot, and Gin Blossoms.

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